New Year’s Greetings from Consul General Furusawa
To All Residents and Visitors of Oregon and Southern Idaho:
I wish you all the joy of the New Year. Time certainly flies. It has already been one year and eight months since I took up my new post here in Portland. I very much appreciate all that this community offered last year I look forward to your continued support this year.
It is well-known that recently Portland has risen to a position of great popularity in Japan. People call Portland a “Green City”, a “Sustainable City”, a “Compact City” and many magazines and other media feature Portland’s style and innovations. Japanese architects and urban planners now consider Portland to be an indispensable model for modern city design. And we are lucky enough to work here and call this place our home.
2014 was year in which the economic relationship between Oregon and Japan developed and grew even stronger. In April, a delegation of civic and business leaders, including representatives of Oregon’s economic development agency, Business Oregon, nonprofit organizations, private companies and the mayors of Salem, Hillsboro, and Beaverton visited Japan to help stimulate trade and economic cooperation. Led by Business Oregon and the Business Committee of the Japan America Society of Oregon they held the annual “Doing Business in Oregon” seminars in Tokyo and Osaka. In total, over 170 people, mostly from small to medium-sized Japanese firms, took part, making the events a great success. Also, at the beginning of June, the presidents of approximately 20 Japanese companies, many in the high-tech sector, came to Portland supported by Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Ltd. to investigate and evaluate Portland as a potential destination for direct investment and the growth of their businesses. In fact, as mentioned above, Portland is a very attractive city for both Japanese people and businesses, with twelve new Japanese companies expanding into Portland over the last two years. At present there are more than 120 Japanese companies in Oregon providing over 5000 local jobs: which is good news for one of the biggest economic challenges facing Oregon.
In the field of Japanese education, my goal to offer some support to Japanese language learning in this region by personally visiting the all of the 48 schools in Oregon and the Vancouver, WA area that offer Japanese classes is nearly complete, with just a handful of schools remaining. This project of visiting the schools, talking to the students in Japanese, and also present them with Consul General’s Commendation for their support of mutual understanding and friendship between U.S. and Japan has been informative and rewarding. I appreciate the kindness and cooperation of the principals and faculty at the over 40 educational institutions I have reached so far. Also, I would like to particularly thank the Japanese teachers and students. Since the trend in recent years has been for Japanese classes to be reduced because of both financial reasons and the growth of other language populations, I am happy to hear that this effort has served to encourage Japanese teachers and offer “spiritual support”.
Also, at the Portland Japanese garden, which marked its 50th anniversary 2 years ago, the work to increase both the size and capabilities of this beautiful resource is steadily coming to fruition. The plan is to expand the garden’s facilities by constructing a new building designed by famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The greatly anticipated new construction will house a library and is conceived as an educational facility where “kado”,”bonsai”, “sado/chado” and various other aspects of Japanese can be introduced to the public. Additionally, last November, Mr. Kazumi Murose, a leading expert on urushi, lacquer-ware artistry, and a “living national treasure” in Japan, visited the garden to hold an exhibit and present a lecture on lacquer craft. Visitors to the exhibition marveled at the intricate and subtle beauty of this quintessential Japanese art form.
Further afield, I was able to travel to the State of Idaho four times, visiting Boise and the site of the wartime Japanese-American internment camp at Minidoka. During those trips I also had the opportunity to meet with and exchange opinions with government officials, Japanese residents of Idaho, Japanese-Americans, representatives of educational institutions, economic groups, and especially people involved with American export companies doing business with Japan.
For the State of Idaho, Japan is an important export destination. Japan was Idaho’s 9th largest partner in terms of export value in 2013. Almost all of Japan’s fast food restaurants use Idaho potatoes for their french fry and other potato needs, so the name “Idaho” is an important and familiar one for Japanese people as well.
On the other hand, there are only about 500 Japanese residents in Idaho, only five Japanese companies (mostly in the semi-conductor, high-tech and energy fields) and two established sister-city relationships. Moving forward, I would like to concentrate my efforts not just on the development of trade between Japan and Idaho, but also on stimulating the interest of Japanese companies to invest and build in Idaho and on the promotion of greater cultural and people-to-people exchanges such as sister-city organizations. I aim to work with government officials, business groups and educational institutions to encourage stakeholders to become more active in these pursuits. Working closely with the new honorary consul in Boise, the Japanese Association, and chapters of the Japanese-American Citizens’ League, I hope to expand and develop the breadth and depth of the friendship between Japan and the State of Idaho. I appreciate your cooperation and assistance in this important endeavor.
Lastly, once again, I wish you a peaceful and joyous New Year. I offer my sincere prayers that the friendship between the nation of Japan and the states of Oregon and Idaho continues to grow stronger and more profound in every possible way.
Copyright © 2013 Consular Office of Japan in Portland